Parents often say that the greatest thing that they have achieved in life is parenthood. When a baby comes into the world, parents are ecstatic and over the moon. However, they are also full of concerns at the same time.
Ask any new parent if they’ve seen a better looking baby than their own and they will definitely say no. For them, their babies are perfect both inside and outside. Yet, they will tell you, that their baby’s umbilical stump isn’t the prettiest thing to look at.
What is an umbilical stump?
To answer this question, we need to first understand what an umbilical cord is. It is the cord which connects the baby in the womb to its mother. It runs from an opening in the baby’s stomach to the placenta in the womb & is about 50 cm in length. It carries blood, oxygen & nutrients from the mother to the baby. There are two arteries present in the cord which carry waste products back to the placenta.
When the baby is delivered, the umbilical cord is snipped off with a cut close to the baby’s belly. What remains of the umbilical cord from the baby’s stomach is the umbilical stump.
What does a normal stump look like?
Please be informed that an umbilical stump may look a little dirty but you shouldn’t worry too much about it, unless you notice a few serious signs, which we will address later. The stump may appear to be shiny and yellow initially. In time, it will dry out on its own and take on a different colour. It could be brown, gray or even a shade of purple. If it turns extremely dark and almost black, don’t stress yourself. It just means that it is ready to fall off on its own. While it is transitioning to other colours, you might also notice some blood near the stump. In some cases, it may take as long as six whole weeks for the stump to fall off completely, so, please be patient.
When to visit a doctor
#1. If the stump or the base of the stump is oozing pus.
#2. If the stump smells extremely foul.
#3. If your baby cries or shows signs of discomfort when you touch the stump to clean it.
#4. If there is any redness around the area of the stump on the baby’s belly.
#5. If the stump is excessively bleeding
How to care for the umbilical stump
#1. The most important step in taking care of your baby’s umbilical stump is being gentle. The stump may look dirty and yellow but that doesn’t mean that it needs rigourous cleaning.
#2. Before cleaning the umbilical stump, ensure that your own hands are thoroughly clean, dry and disinfected.
#3. Use plain water to clean the stump carefully and air it out to dry. Avoid cleaning the stump with rubbing alcohol as sometimes advised as there is no evidence of it helping the stump heal faster and it might actually irritate the baby’s skin.
#4. When putting on diapers on the baby, ensure that they do not cover the stump. Fold them so that they rest below the umbilical stump.
#5. You could also skip giving the baby a tub bath and give him/her a sponge bath till the stump falls off.
#6. However, if you do prefer a tub bath, completely dry the stump with a clean, soft cloth or cotton after the bath and leave it uncovered for a little while to dry out. Choose bath gels that are free of dyes, parabens, sulfates & other harmful ingredients.
What not to do while taking care of the stump
#1. Do not try to pull off the stump at any time, even after it is dry. It will fall off by itself once completely dry.
#2. Do not use any baby products on the stump unless specified by your doctor.
#3. Dress the baby is loose-fitting cotton clothes. Do not chafe the umbilical stump.
What to do when the stump falls off
Once the umbilical stump is completely dry it will fall off by itself. Continue to keep the area clean and dry. This is where your baby’s belly button will form. However, you may notice some of these things:
#1. Sometimes a sticky, yellow fluid may ooze out after the cord falls out. If the oozing persists, or if foul smelling, consult with your pediatrician.
#2. There could also be a scab over where the baby’s navel might be. This is normal and the scab will dry and fall off too.
#3. Sometimes a mass of tissue might be left behind after the umbilical stump falls off. This is called Umbilical Granuloma. Umbilical Granuloma is harmless and painless since it does not have any blood vessels though it might not be a pretty sight. You could consult a doctor and he can easily get rid of it by performing cauterization, that is to burn-off the mass of tissue. This process is completely painless for the baby.
#4. Innie or outie: Until the Umbilical stump falls off, you will not be able to predict if the baby has an innie (inward) or outie (outward protruding) belly button. There is no way to ensure your baby has either and neither is better than the other so do not fall for old wives tales. It is also not related in any way to how the doctor snipped off the umbilical cord.